Monday, November 11, 2013

Audiobook Review: Ender's Shadow

Ender's Shadow (Shadow Saga, #1)
Ender's Shadow by Orson Scott Card
October 1, 1999
Tor Publishing
384 pages
Genre: Science Fiction
Source: Personal audiobook purchase
Book Blurb: 
Ender's Shadow is being dubbed as a parallel novel to Orson Scott Card's Hugo and Nebula Award-winning Ender's Game. By "parallel," Card means that Shadow begins and ends at roughly the same time as Game, and it chronicles many of the same events. In fact, the two books tell an almost identical story of brilliant children being trained in the orbiting Battle School to lead humanity's fleets in the final war against alien invaders known as the Buggers. The most brilliant of these young recruits is Ender Wiggin, an unparalleled commander and tactician who can surely defeat the Buggers if only he can overcome his own inner turmoil. 
Second among the children is Bean, who becomes Ender's lieutenant despite the fact that he is the smallest and youngest of the Battle School students. Bean is the central character of Shadow, and we pick up his story when he is just a 2-year-old starving on the streets of a future Rotterdam that has become a hell on earth. Bean is unnaturally intelligent for his age, which is the only thing that allows him to escape--though not unscathed--the streets and eventually end up in Battle School. Despite his brilliance, however, Bean is doomed to live his life as an also-ran to the more famous and in many ways more brilliant Ender. Nonetheless, Bean learns things that Ender cannot or will not understand, and it falls to this once pathetic street urchin to carry the weight of a terrible burden that Ender must not be allowed to know.
My Review:
I loved Ender's Game (see my review), and being that the movie is upon us, I wanted to hear more about Ender's world, specifically about Bean. Once again, I loved the audiobook version of this book. The cast of narrators really brought the story to life, making each character unique, with their own voice, inflecting drama and emotion into their speech as needed, but not over-dramatizing it. For me, this was the perfect way to get into this story and I'm glad I went the audio route.
As for the story, Ender's Shadow is treated as a parallel novel to Ender's Game, and for good reason. But while some parts are a bit of retelling, much of the novel is completely its own, with the new perspective being from Bean and those following his life. Some of these players also follow Ender, but really, the story is either all about Bean, or Bean's perspective on Ender, which still gives us a new story. I loved getting into Bean's head and hearing about his life. There were so many layers to it and it was quite fascinating. I will caution that I did find this book less child-friendly than Ender's Game, and am having son wait until he is a bit older to read it (just my opinion). I'm also very glad I listened to this after Ender's Game and not before, though I could see someone doing the opposite and having a unique experience to mine.
As for the characters, Bean is a completely unique and separate entity from Ender. It was very interesting getting to know Bean, who is the youngest child to go to battle school, who lived on the streets beforehand, who is a genius and has insight far beyond what a child his age should. I found Bean's personality really intriguing and well developed, delving into areas I hadn't considered. We also see some familiar characters from Ender's Game, including Ender himself. Their relationship was not what I expected. Then there is also a whole cast of new characters, who each add something special to the story, ranging from the persistent and hopeful Sister Carlotta to the twisted grudge-holder Achilles (pronounced Asheel).
While I liked Ender's Game slightly more than Ender's Shadow (there were some spots in the first half of the book that were a bit slow for me), Ender's Shadow ends at some point before the last chapters of Ender's Game (what I would call the extended epilogue), so I find myself really interested in the follow-up books to the Ender's Shadow series, and what is going to happen next with Bean. But regardless of what I listen to next, I really enjoyed this book and this world that Card has created and can see why these stories have been loved by so many.
4-1/2 STARS

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